Our readings this week certainly fit in with the current political events, especially when noting how social media is reinventing government. Facebook is full of comments (I can’t even call them debates anymore) about who is the better (or worse) candidate for President of the United States. If the government actually adopted ICT and social media as quickly as the people of the United States, perhaps it would help our government to run a little more efficiently. As the consulting firm, Accenture, noted in 2012, “Social media is mainstream, and governments must develop social media savvy to interact with people and use them as sources of feedback and innovation.”
However, another one of our readings exposed a cave in Boyers, Pennsylvania that houses the paperwork for retired government workers. All the documentation for new retirees is on paper. All the processing is done by people, by hand. Some information is entered into a computer, but then it is printed back out again for placement into the retiree’s file folder. Several attempts have been made to update the system and introduce technology to assist the process. Two recent attempts have failed and the workers continue to process paperwork. On paper. Sadly, even as late as 2014, retirees still wait weeks or months for their paperwork to be processed. It seems that an updated way to process retirement papers will not be implemented for quite some time, even though workers say they are willing to change (Fahrenthold, 2014).
The government would not allow photos inside the facility, but here is The Washington Post’s illustration from: Data-Mining. The old fashioned way
These articles reinforced my belief that I do NOT want to work for the federal government. The slowness to adopt change, along with all the red tape and paperwork attached to government documents is especially frustrating to me. After my experiences in the military during the 1980s, where I worked on telecommunications equipment from World War II, (one had a serial number of 1), I know that the response to suggested changes is often “If it isn’t broke, why fix it?” It was good to see, however, that several of our readings demonstrated that state and city governments are much quicker to utilize new technologies than the federal government.
It heartens me to find smartphone apps developed by cities and states that allow quicker, easier access and functionality for various tasks, such as parking. Not long ago, many public parking meters were updated to accept credit or debit cards. Now, it appears that an app for the mobile smartphone can take care of parking issues (Brown, 2012). A customer receives a text when the meter expires, then the customer simply adds money to the meter through the app without going back to the car! Gone are the days of running to the meter to avoid the tickets. Television commercials featuring meter monitors will soon need to be phased out, as they will no longer have a cultural context.
Interestingly, most of the areas that grasp new technologies quickly are user-centered. Parking meters, banking, and other such businesses understand the need to move into technology-focused arenas. Perhaps, in addition to the huge volume of information the federal government handles, that is why it moves so slowly. Most of the departments do not cater to customers or users, thus may not feel the need to keep up with the latest technology. The federal government is somewhat removed from public service, unlike a state or city government, which deals with the public on a smaller, more personal scale. Although there are certain areas of the government implementing technology, such as the federal tax return e-file program, the federal government will probably always be behind the technology times. The largest cog moves the most slowly.
Accenture: Consulting, Technology, Outsourcing. (2012). Retrieved from https://www.accenture.com.
Brown, J. (2012 October 3). Governments expand mobile payments to everything from parking to property taxes. Retrieved from http://www.govtech.com/e-government/Governments-Expand-Mobile-Payments-to-Everything-from-Parking-to-Property-Taxes.html.
Fahrenthold, D. (2014, March 22). Sinkhole of bureaucracy. The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/national/2014/03/22/sinkhole-of-bureaucracy/.